Nigeria’s corporate existence: Restructuring or accountable governance?

Prof. MK Othman

By Prof. MK Othman

At the risk of sounding like an incurable believer of one nation, Nigeria, I am obliged to air my view on the restructuring of Nigeria. This will at least allow eagle-eyed minds to critique my thoughts to find solutions to our beleaguered nationhood. Truly, Nigeria was created as an “accident” of history orchestrated by British colonists whose main aim was to maximally exploit both the human and natural resources for the benefit of their nation, the British Empire. This kind of historical antecedent was not unique to Nigeria as many countries went through a similar “accidental” trend before they became what they are today. Germany and Italy were respectively created through a collection of kingdoms and fiercely rival city-states. Today, they are among the top-ranking countries in Western Europe. Similarly, British colonists created India through the unification of Moghul Independent Empires. Spain became a country through a marriage between two personalities, each heading a kingdom and agreed to amalgamate. Nevertheless, there were cases of some countries, hitherto united as one country but divided peacefully into their separate entities. Several examples abound, Belgium was separated from the Netherlands in 1830, Singapore split off from Malaysia in 1965, and Norway and Sweden peacefully separated in 1905. The same thing happened to the British India Dominion, which was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947, and Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971. Although these countries may be doing well but cannot be compared with other countries, they “accidentally” amalgamated whose citizens accepted their differences and built their nations.   History has detailed documentation of how most of the powerful countries in the world were created through amalgamations of kingdoms, empires, and regions with people having different cultures, religions, and socio-economic wellbeing. Visionary leaders of such countries identified, understood, and accepted their differences while heightening the commonalities with the sole aim of creating a viable and vibrant nation.  Today, such nations are models for copying. Human nature has shown that communities that accommodate visitors or people from other communities develop faster than communities that reject visitors. Hence, united, we become stronger and divided, we fall. 

On the other hand, bad leaders heighten and exploit differences among the communities to breed backwardness and conflicts while they plunder the common resources of the communities with reckless abundance. This was a similar tactic used by the colonial masters to rule their colonies with ease. It is commonly called the “divide and rule” system. It is within this context that the topical issue of restructuring Nigeria is viewed. What are the restructuring of Nigeria and its possible consequences?I am yet to come across a coherent, transparent, and clear definition of “restructuring Nigeria”. However, as a non-political scientist, I view the restructuring of Nigeria as an act of reorganizing the legal, administrative, ownership, and operation of the country with the aim of power and resource control devolution from the center to the regions. I stand to be corrected. Some of the agitators of restructuring are demanding “regional autonomy” while others like IPOB have gone beyond autonomy to demand the creation of Biafra out of Nigeria as an independent country for the Igbo people, through any means including violence. Unfortunately, IPOB has started meting violence to government Institutions and some people. The agitation for restructuring resulted from the need of few people, particularly the elites to acquire political power and resource control. Many of such elites were power and the power have left them. In Nigeria, political power is an automatic license for massive resource control and responsibility without accountability. Nigerian citizens hardly demand accountability of political office holders, public and civil servants as well as traditional rulers and other custodians of the nation’s financial and material resources. We simply view trusts as privileged positions for aggrandizement and means of self-enrichment. If not, what have we done with the monthly federal revenue allocations in the last few years?In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling oil revenue, 36 states and FCT shared a total of N2.29 trillion as Federal allocation. A year earlier, in 2019, a total of N2.47 trillion was shared. The 2020 allocation indicated Delta and Akwa Ibom states with the biggest shares of N186.83 billion and N146.27, respectively. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated five states (Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, and Lagos) were allocated 31% of the total allocation and were also beneficiaries of the 13% derivation of oil-producing states. With this massive allocation, it should be noted that Akwa Ibom and Rivers are among the top states with the highest unemployment rates in Nigeria.

To buttress this point, let me share an experience of interacting with a state governor. In 2008, I had the privilege of having a closed-door meeting with a state governor who confessed to enormous financial resources from Federal Revenue Allocation. He said “my state receives an average of N2 billion monthly and our total personnel cost was about an N1 billion, leaving us with N1 billion, which is enough to develop the state beyond people imagination” He added, “ the N2 billion monthly income, when converted to US Dollar (then) is higher than the income many African countries, and we have no option than to lift this state to a greater height”. Unfortunately, the state governor did not do what he promised. Today, the state is economically worst than it was in 2008. However, the example of this state is a replica of the situation in almost all the states in Nigeria. So, restructuring Nigeria will not change this crop of leaders at both state and federal government levels. As long as there is no accountability in the Nigerian system, we can go ahead to create 37 republics from the current Nigerian nationhood but we will move to nowhere. Baton will be changed from one set of thieves to another set, if not to a combined set of thieves, robbers, liars, and plunderers, like jumping from frying pan to fire. Nigerians must wake up to demand accountable leadership. We must hold leaders responsible for their actions and inactions, account for their deeds, reward or sanction them as the case may be. How do we make leaders accountable? This is a story for another day.

Othman writes from Zaria

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily